Alright Folks…now for the real countdown.
Out of all 59 guest hosts, the ones in this post are, in my humble opinion, the 20 best. There was something about the way they hosted that captivated me, entertained me, impressed me, and made me laugh like hell. I’m gonna note here that this may not be everyone’s opinion, that I may have ranked some people too high, or too low. But this is my list, and I think I did a pretty good job feeling out where everyone belonged.
Right. Onto #20, a show I was outwardly fearing..
#20- James Blunt (Series 25 Episode 8)
Talk about a guy who knows exactly who he is.
What I like about James Blunt is that he’s probably heard every ‘James Blunt sucks’ joke there is, and still manages to be funny, and an amazing sport. When it came time for him to host Buzzcocks, after a fantastic appearance on the Terry Wogan show, he was prepared, and he went at it with high energy and some nice, if Tokvig-esque whip-fast, reads.
I do have to say that the majority of the show was the panel screwing in him, not just on his status as a punchline, but as it came out that he’d had relations with, and I quote ‘20% of the Pussycat Dolls’. That joke alone gave the panel, including Sarah Millican and Matthew Crosby, enough fuel for the rest of the night. Even better, James was a fantastic sport, never being afraid to make fun of himself. His reads would occasionally slip, and sometimes his quick presenting would impede with jokes, but he had a fantastic night, and proved that within the punchline was a legitimately funny performer.
#19- David Tennant (Series 23 Episode 12)
In 2009, just as David Tennant was wrapping up his beloved run as a certain timelord, he agreed to do a run on some panel shows, to give back, and have one last Who-related run in the spotlight. His show on QI was wonderful, but for Buzzcocks, he decided to do something special. He made the whole show a DOCTOR WHO SPECIAL, rolling out two of his Who compadres, Catherine Tate and Bernard Cribbins, and two celebrity Who fans, Jo Whiley and Jamie Cullum, and peppered the entire show with Ood, Cybermen, Daleks, and a giant TARDIS sitting outside the range of the panel. To say it was Buzzcocks’ most ambitious themed show was an understatement, but it’s also one of the most rewarding, if you’re a fan of Who, and if you’re a fan of NMTB.
David was sure to let his personality shine through, by revealing that he’s an unabashed Coldplay fan, and having a running gag angrily shouting the name of a certain fellow Who-verse star. He was also great at the ‘hosting’ portion of the show. Like Blunt, after a while he knew when to let the panel snipe amongst themselves, especially considering Tate’s mental breakdown…and the fact that Bernard Cribbins became the show’s secret weapon. Even if David’s off-the-cuff abilities were sort of down, he still made sure everyone enjoyed themselves, and oh boy did they…
#18 – Lorraine Kelly (Series 25 Episode 3)
Fresh off the rebranding of Series 25, and two forgettable, unnerving shows, Lorraine Kelly brought us a breath of life from a series that many thought was about to go south. Kelly, contrasting from her squeaky-clean morning show persona, introduced a swear box, spanking paddle, and halfway through the show waxed Phill’s legs. So in terms of morning show presenters, Lorraine Kelly was willing to bend over backwards to put them all in the dust.
It helped that, as a presenter, she didn’t have a problem hosting the show, or keeping the show running smoothly, but she was also responsible for being really funny, and leading to some ‘how the hell is that coming out of Lorraine Kelly’s mouth’ moments. She had this joking way of flirting with some of the contestants, which backfired in a way when her bra sort of exploded during a take, leading the entire panel to improvise around her. She was collaborative, funny, and melded well with everyone on the panel, even if the occasional dip to the well of sexy humor may have distracted from her endeavor of hosting the show.
Still, her show was something of a classic, and her presence ramped up the show into one of the craziest recordings in Buzzcocks history (and half of it wasn’t even Tony Law’s fault.)
#17 – Lee Mack (Series 24 Episode 8 & Series 26 Episode 5)
Like Jack Dee, Lee Mack’s another instance of a guy who was sensational on his first time out, and whose 2nd hosting gig pushed him down a few pegs, though the strength of his first outing has pushed him up to #17. I don’t think anybody’s been more on top of his game than Lee on the Series 24 show. Every second, the breath of the comedy gods was flowing through him, and he was giving some spectacular off-the-cuff material, in addition to keeping the show tight. He managed to go off on a tangent on the proper flight attendant uniform, Andrew Stone’s proclamation is that a triple threat is someone who can sing, dance, act, and is coming for you, and his former roommate Noel Fielding.
Additionally, his off the cuff skills led to one of my favorite moments of this era, the entire ‘BATMAAAAN’ Intros round, with Lee commanding the audience to join in, and eventually buckling at the one renegade audience member who does it a third time. Lee was able to work that stage to the point where he could have hosted the show full-time.
However…his second show was sloppily hosted, sloppily structured by the producers, and just a weak effort compared to his last show. Lee spent an entire 3-minute bit completely mis-doing a teleprompter read, and while it was funny and well reacted-to, it was still hard to see from a guy who did it all so well the last time. It was, frankly, a disappointing show, but it didn’t come close to taking away from how strong Lee Mack could be when left to his own devices. As a Buzzcocks host, he was dominant, fast, and insanely likable, in good times and bad.
Moving onto another fellow who’s worked with David Mitchell…
#16- Robert Webb (Series 24 Episode 11)
It’s great- when I saw Rob Webb was hosting, I thought ‘yeah, he’ll be alright’. I never thought he’d be THIS GOOD. Like, I was floored with how active he was in the show, and with the contestants, as he was always, in my opinion, the more passive member of Mitchell and Webb.
It helped that Webb was given the comedy goldmine of having Chris Packham on the show, and while Chris was an amazing sport, and a great guy to have on the show…the amount of animal-knobbing jokes beckoned, and Rob was there to help, as well as screw with Cee-Lo Green and Example. He was also dynamite in terms of material, giving some great reads off the prompter, and giving the entire room a belly-laugh after a Sinitta joke.
I’m impressed because I wasn’t expecting him to come out this strong, and he ends up completely ruling the show, and giving one of the strongest efforts from a branded comedian the show’s seen. Even Chris Packham would agree.
#15- Ricky Wilson (Series 18 Episode 3)
In 2006, the Kaiser Chiefs were the biggest rock band in London, and Ricky Wilson was one of the best young guest panelists that Never Mind the Buzzcocks had to offer. Hosting the show was something of a foregone conclusion, but, as a lot of musicians jumping from guest to host has shown on this list, it doesn’t always go well. Luckily for Ricky Wilson, he managed to host one of the single greatest episodes to not be hosted by Mark Lamarr. And I don’t just say that lightly.
Ricky Wilson was in a fantastic mood that night, not only riding high off the Chiefs’ success, but because he was really jazzed to be hosting the show, and it SO SHOWED. There were several moments where he just flat out had conversations with people, like Colin Murray and Ryan Jarman, just shot the shit. He did eventually have a show to host, and while his reads weren’t PERFECT, he was definitely charismatic enough, and at the same time serious enough, to carry the show.
He was responsible for hosting while TWO classic runners popped up- Ryan Jarman claiming that he’d invented Live 8, and Phill’s entire team deciding to mail the show in and aim to end the show with 0 points. Ricky was stern on both accounts, screwing with Ryan, and playfully rolling his eyes at Phill, even as Phill BELTED OUT various Kaiser Chiefs songs (to which he added “you’ll soon run out of Kaiser Chiefs songs. We’ve only got one record….but we’re gonna DO another one…”)
Even better, Ricky was vulnerable, accidentally making a faux-pas about Stevie Wonder (‘yeah, sorry Stevie, if you’re watching…’), and still landing on his feet. He wasn’t perfect, but with the amount of fun he was having, and the amount of joy that was clearly present in the show, he didn’t need to be.
#14- Richard Madeley (Series 26 Episode 8)
As good as morning-show presenter Lorraine Kelly was in the host’s chair, Richard Madeley was even better. Why? Because as dirty and vulnerable as Kelly was able to go…Richard Madeley went deeper, dirtier, and crazier, to the point where Phill summed it up by saying ‘I’m going to need counseling after this show’.
Richard’s strength was not only assembling the madness that was this show, featuring Seann Walsh and Andrew O’Neil, but contributing to it. He was great at talking back at the contestants, contributing to jokes, and just having a fun time with it all. He was also great at hosting, and had some great prepared jokes.
Now…where his hosting gig gains traction is his ability to defy expectations, by saying some of the filthiest, least-Madeley-esque things, most famously involving auto-fellatio by way of wheely-bin, but also involving his co-host Judy giving him head underneath the desk. The panel went into hysterics at how un-Madeley Madeley was being, and the fun continued solely because Madeley allowed himself to kick back and enjoy himself.
#13- Terry Wogan (Series 24 Episode 4)
Terry Wogan is one of those gets that only happens every once in a blue moon. The guy is one of the most world-renowned presenters and TV personalities, singlehandedly engineering Children in Need and the Eurovision Song Contest, and he’s the kind of guy whose kind, yet intimidating, presence can light up a room. So having someone as HUGE and PROFESSIONAL as Terry Wogan host a least-common-denominator program like Buzzcocks is a risk. Here, thankfully, it paid off.
Terry took this grand, wonderful approach to everything, and while sometimes it didn’t pay off [his reads were often a bit too plummy], his general demeanor shone through the show, offhandedly saying to Rufus Hound ‘D’you know I had no idea when I met you…the depths of your depravity?’ After even more panel shenanigans, he just looked at the camera, and yelled ‘ENOUGH OF THIS…SOCIETY ENTERTAINMENT!’
Maybe it was the fact that Terry Wogan was being undermined by Rufus Hound talking about C3P0’s genitalia, or maybe it was just the way he said it, but I don’t think Phill ever laughed harder than he did immediately after that joke.
The marvel of Terry Wogan’s hosting appearance is that literally everything he did was funnier because of the concept of Terry Wogan doing it or saying it on a panel show. Terry’s offhanded wicked sense of humor shone through in numbers, elevating even the quietest of moments, and keeping the entire panel in a fantastic mood. Though you could tell he was a bit drained by the end, and though you could tell the insanity could overwhelm and confuse him, he responded like a true professional, and had a positively wonderful time of it.
#12- Josh Groban (Series 24 Episode 10)
Josh Groban is living proof that people can have two sides in show business. One side can be the gracious, melodic, operatic singer that gets tons of sales at Christmas. The other side can be one of the most charismatic, all-out-funny people that Buzzcocks has ever had on, and his hosting appearance mixed the best of both worlds.
The main indicator of this show’s success was the mood everyone on the panel was in, especially Michael Ball and KT Tunstall, all having nice, ‘Grobanated’ moments throughout the show. Plus, having Ball on hand as Groban, who’s a big fan of his, got to host was a nice touch.
Look, I don’t think anybody knew it in 1996, but Buzzcocks was MADE for Josh Groban. The way he can interact with the panel, the way he can crack jokes, the way he can have really nice musical moments…that’s what the show had been clamoring for since its inception. Josh was quick, concise, had great judgment, and knew how to bring the best out in everyone, especially Tinchy Stryder.
His piece de resistance was the ending, where he and Michael Ball got to sing ‘I Dreamed a Dream’. You could tell this was a childhood dream of his, and it came off as an incredibly sweet, and terrific music moment. The show wasn’t perfect, but Groban gave more charisma and enthusiasm to Buzzcocks than arguably any American ever has.
#11- Warwick Davis (Series 27 Episode 10)
Another one of the well-planned Theme Shows, the Movies special, was hosted by the guy who’d been in so many hit movies without you even knowing it, as well as being an incredibly funny compadre to Ricky Gervais, the great Warwick Davis. I think a lot of people underestimate Warwick because of his size, when in reality he’s one of the nicest, and funniest, guys in showbiz, and it certainly showed in Buzzcocks.
Warwick did a very nice job of keeping the show together, and keeping the panel engaged, coming off as an incredibly strong proctor for a ton of big personalities, including Chris Ramsey, who Warwick even had a little pseudo-rivalry with throughout the show. He also was able to provide an exclusive, once-in-a-show-run experience, with a tiebreaker round and a bonus Willow stunt double of his in the ID Parade. So, really, instead of the producers tailoring the show to him, he basically did all the tailoring himself, and it really showed- he seemed like he was having a ball.
He was terrific off the cuff, knew when to be stern, and, more importantly, wasn’t afraid of short jokes. Plus, this was a show where the panel could have easily overtaken the host, especially with the ‘Squirrels Ate My Cake’ runner, and…it didn’t really happen. So Bravo to Warwick..
#10- Kathy Burke (Series 26 Episode 1)
So…knowing how good Kathy Burke was on her Series 5 show, I was expecting something funny, but I wasn’t expecting her to roll out the best Series Premiere since the Mark era.
You could tell she was up to the challenge when early on, she accentuated a joke with a casual wink, and she got loads of applause for it…and then threatened to do that for every joke for the rest of the show. She was also so incredibly laid back, as per her character, that the show just had this raunchy, fun, spontaneous feel to it, like any moment there could be a fun, ridiculous moment. And with Mark Hoppus on the panel, who also shared Kathy’s off-the-cuff and dirty ideology, that’s what happened.
Most of Kathy’s material could have been cut from the same cloth as Mark Lamarr, even with an ‘I *SAY* ____’ joke in there. Kathy, luckily, was savage enough, and had this no-holds-barred attitude about her, that a great deal of the prompter jokes were sold instantly. But moreover, she was able to communicate with the contestants, especially Greg Rutherford, and be very off-the-cuff (even lampshading that Greg’s seat was supposed to be taken by Mo Farra).
Kathy Burke may not have, on paper, looked like the greatest NMTB host, but she fit SO WELL with the brand of dry, sick humor, and she hosted a hell of a show.
#9- John Barrowman (Series 25 Episode 12)
Onto another host that seemed to infect the entire show with their brand of humor, only this one in a jollier, slightly gayer fashion.
John Barrowman’s another guy who was born for this show, being a natural performer and a guy who’s entertaining simply breathing. What makes his show, which had a few gay jokes, different from David Walliams’ is that Barrowman doesn’t use it as a gimmick. He kinda uses his musical theatre background more than he uses his gayness this show, though he does plant a smooch on both Jason Manford AND Phill Jupitus. He gave all his energy to making this not only a show to remember, but a Christmas show to remember, and all the hard work paid off.
The guy’s skills as a presenter impressed me, as his reads and jokes were spot on, and the way he collaborated with the panelists, especially both Jasons (Derulo and Manford). Plus, once he realized something pissed someone on the panel off, he decided to use it to his advantage in the most cheerily evil way possible, like Phill and his hatred of Mr. Blobby (Rhod would use this several times in S28 as well.) Honestly, you could see how much love he had for the show, and the spectacle of it.
Even in the last moments, he got everyone that was a part of the show, including the ID Parade guests, to join him center stage to sing Silent Night. John Barrowman wanted to make this the single most memorable Christmas show of the series…and he damn near succeeded, too, but there’s one that beats his…
#8 – Bob Mortimer (Series 26 Episode 12)
Now let me explain myself.
I just said so many great things about Barrowman’s Christmas show, the spectacle, the moment, the everything. So why, pray tell, does Bob Mortimer’s show, which pulled out less stops and was less grand, rank higher? Just look at Bob’s face. Bob Mortimer is capable of making literally any program he’s on the most fun time anyone’s gonna have. He did this back in his first appearance on Buzzcocks in S1, and he did this in his Guest Captain bit…but without the use of mistletoe, musical numbers or theatrics, Bob Mortimer was able to create the most fun environment this series ever had (save for a fellow coming up in a few spots).
Bob’s bizarre humor took full hold during the show, allowing for some bizarre Christmas anecdotes and crackers. The guy had a rolodex full of old-school keyboard sound effects that he kept throwing in to crack people up, and some of his jokes, and his ID Parade names, did enough to keep people laughing for HOURS. Plus, as host, he was able to second-guess contestants, screw with them, and yell keyboard noises at them.
The patron saint of this round was the entire Next Lines round, because everybody was already really happy and giggly, but the joke answers people were giving were insanely inspired. Plus, Noel and Bob’s dynamic was wonderful, both as weird comics, and both would crack each other up throughout the night.
So while, in a perfect world, both shows would be even, the Bob show slightly has the edge for just being insanely fun and ridiculous without trying too hard to be.
#7 – Peter Andre (Series 27 Episode 3)
He sings. He dances. He takes off his shirt. He hosts. He smiles. He trains. He toilets. He celebrities. Yet despite all that, heading towards Peter Andre’s episode, I was fearing a dud. Why? Because like James Blunt, in my head I figured that someone that’d become a punchline also had to be a not-great person as well.
Well, look. Peter Andre, like James Blunt, knows exactly who he is. And he’s able to make fun of himself, as well as take a joke about himself. Literally moment one of the show, he’s coming in with his entire camera crew from his reality show, trying to document his hosting gig from both angles. If he was actually a stuck-up prick, he wouldn’t make a big thing of it at the top of the show. Even as a b-rate singer, he knows how to entertain people.
Peter’s hosting skills were great, and he was able to appeal to everyone without coming off like he was pandering. However, you can sum up Peter’s hosting gig with one song…Insania. When the song played in in Intros, Peter just waited for it to stop…and then he became visibly frustrated…and then the entire panel started dancing to the song.
Even funnier was the full ‘Insania’ round, which started with a full two minutes of Abbott-and-Costello-esque prattling between Peter and Noel (“Who am I?” “PETER!” “YES.”) The humor in this is the fact that Peter Andre is SO INTO HOSTING THE SHOW, and the charisma is SO SHOWING…and yet Noel, and Ana Matronic are BREAKING HIM. And there are moments where he just winces to the camera, but he’s doing it for the show, and he’s doing it for the experience. The whole ‘who am I’ but went on for so long, but only because Peter committed to it. Heck, Peter even brought out Bubbla Ranks, his ‘Mysterious Girl’ collaborator, for ID Parade, and for some of Intros, which is a great use of using your hosting cred to sweeten the pot.
So no matter how much Peter Andre squirmed, winced, or rolled his eyes, you could tell how much he wanted this show to be success, and how much effort he put in to entertain everyone.
Peter, exasperated: “…who am I?”
Tony Law: “…one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, frankly…”
(ironically, we go from Peter Andre to the guy that completely obliterated him on Mock the Week…)
#6- Greg Davies (Series 25 Episode 6)
This show must have been a present sent from the Gods for Greg Davies. Not only did he have ‘H’ from Steps, not only did he have Frankie Boyle and Holly Walsh onhand, and not only did he have the offensively dumb Amy Childs in the building…but he had Tinchy Stryder, the guy basically half his height, on his show. The amount of comedic possibilities in that equation is endless, and damn if Greg didn’t milk it for all it was worth.
The thing that stands out is just how Greg absolutely MASTERED this show. He’s probably one of the most active hosts the show’s ever had, because every second of gameplay, he was collaborating with the panel, and making jokes with, and at, them. Plus, he engineered an entire runner around objects being small to him, and GIANT to Tinchy, which worked every goddamned time. Even when Greg and Tinchy had to go over to the ID Parade together, and you could see the insane height difference, it was still ridiculously funny.
Height jokes aside, Greg was insanely active in the game, and in most of the runners. When Frankie and Amy Childs were having their ‘vajazzling’ discussion, Greg absolutely had to keep it going. Greg was also great at fueling Frankie’s fire, having worked with him on MTW a few times. Additionally, the entire joke that Tinchy measures monetary amounts in ‘range rovers’ couldn’t have kept going without Greg needling Tinchy about it.
Greg was also naturally hysterical, both off the cuff and off the prompter, and was able to control the chaos of all the personalities by keeping the game running smoothly. And yet there are five spots ahead of Greg, which means that as top-to-bottom amazing Greg Davies was, there were five hosts that did better.
#5 – Dermot O’Leary (Series 23 Episode 10)
Dermot O’Leary is responsible for hosting the single most fun episode of Never Mind the Buzzcocks of all time. It’s very rare that people leave without any animosity, or without even demented, snarky jokes being hurled at them, but this was honestly one of the safest, most peaceful environments for a NMTB episode, and you’d be lying if you say that’s not Dermot’s fault.
This was a long time coming for Dermot, who’d done one quiet appearance during the Mark era, and one personality-laden-yet-still-lower-key appearance during the Simon era. The guy started off the show with a group hug (featuring a Mariah Carey song that wouldn’t shut off properly), and interspersed the show with Peter Dickson excitedly announcing the names of the panelists (and some of the rounds), which played either post-punchline [‘PHILL JUPITUS!’] or at the behest of a contestant who wanted to geek out [‘RUSSELL TOVEY!’].
Dermot’s strength, probably learned in his time as a presenter, is he knew when to be passive, like when he allowed David O’Doherty and Noel to go on about fake panda facts, and when to be active, like when he willed JLS’ Aston Merrygold to do a backflip center stage. He also was loose enough to have a personality through his reads and jokes, and interacted with both panels, making sure everyone got screen-time and awesome moments.
By the end of the show, Michael Ball and Phill were giggling to each other, and everyone was in a fantastic mood. That’s not a ‘good show’ detriment- that’s the sign of an amazing host.
#4 – Martin Freeman (Series 23 Episode 8)
I think, out of everyone who hosted the show in this era, Martin Freeman’s career aged the best. I mean this because when he hosted, he was famous for being on The Office, and doing some minor stuff…and as of right now he’s starred in all three Hobbit movies, he’s part of the MCU, he’s been on Fargo, he’s hosted Saturday Night Live, and he’s best known for playing John Watson on Sherlock. Most of this career-defining stuff happened after this episode. So to say this show aged well, especially considering how well Freeman did, is an overstatement.
Martin’s been portrayed as this sort of composed, stick-up-his-ass type in everything he’s been in, so to see him cut loose and throw Lamarr-style insults at Dappy and Charlie Brooker was refreshing, as well as throwing in a few of his trademark eye-rolls. He was a fantastic proctor, capable of screwing with teams when they were unable to get an answer, or more likely just screwing with Dappy when he couldn’t get all of a Next Line. He also used his professional sort of persona to make everything he said come off as genuine, even if he was taking the mick.
The thing is, I would have ranked him highly had he just been a fantastic, Mark-esque host. But what brings him up to #4 is the way he handled a certain incident on the show, where Dappy made a crack at a rather overweight member of the ID Parade…which caused Phill, in jest, to walk off.
I compare this one to the Clarkson show because, unlike just giving Phill shit about it as he went offstage, Martin was able to stay genuine, and convince Dappy that he’d legitimately just insulted Phill Jupitus, all while joining Charlie in screwing with him. He just kept this persona of ‘oh no, how could someone do this’, when all the while Phill was probably just taking a piss break, laughing his ass off. Martin absolutely sold the event, and clearly defined the side the audience should take (read: against Dappy), while still sort of trying to keep the show going, and to entertain the crap out of everyone in the room that wasn’t Dappy.
A lesser host couldn’t have handled that incident like Martin Freeman did. He took what could have been a chaotic moment and absolutely owned it, making it look like Dappy was the real victim. And to be fair, the bloke kinda deserved it.
#3- Russell Howard (Series 27 Episode 2)
I imagine there is a difference between ‘not liking Russell Howard’ and ‘not liking Russell Howard on Mock the Week’. Because honestly, I think the latter bit is where most of the backlash has come from. Russell’s a fantastic stand-up, and has built a career on being an incredible improviser and comedian, but his material on Mock the Week, especially in comparison to Hugh Dennis and Frankie Boyle, definitely is kind of lackluster. I think he’s gotten more love as a stand-up because he’s in a medium he’s more used to.
To that end, hosting Never Mind the Buzzcocks may have worked out better for Russell than 5 years of Mock the Week did. Because Russell may have been the closest resemblance to Mark Lamarr from anyone on this era, and Russell probably gave the greatest audition for a long-term tenure as host.
The second he began, it felt like he’d done this show a million times before. Obviously Good News and Stand-Up Central had primed him for this, as his prompter-reading and audience-reading skills were already on par with the best. Also, the guy wasn’t selfish. If he was gonna make jokes, he was gonna collaborate with the whole panel, which was one of his strengths on MTW.
His biggest moments came from screwing with the panelists, in particular, Stacey Solomon and Lethal Bizzle. But HOW he screwed with them is what sets him apart from the pack. With Stacey, he took her offhanded impression of a sea-lion and turned it into an entire David Attenborough special, where he talks about animals and Stacey just does the impressions of them (i.e. “HERE WE HAVE THE MIGHTY BEAR. STACEY?”) I’ve mentioned this roughly a billion times on this blog, but it made me laugh so hard that it’s worth mentioning over and over again. Plus, with Lethal, he screwed him over his use of the term DENCH, even bringing up specific tweets (including the one that ended in ‘Hashtag Fannys’). Still, with all this teasing, I don’t think anybody left the show legitimately hating him.
He didn’t have to do anything flashy, he just hosted the show, and had some really funny material at the expense of the panelists, and just in general. Russell Howard truly impressed me in that regard, and that’s why he gets to be #3.
#2 – Richard Ayoade (Series 26 Episode 7)
Sometimes someone gives such a tonal jolt to the show that you can’t help but ignore them. This almost happened with Simon’s ‘Family Friendly’ episode, where he tried to veer the show back into safe humor (while still having Alexei Sayle and Jack Dee on the program), but it still fell short due to Simon’s cheeky-bastard sensibilities.
Richard Ayoade came on the show, and announced up front that there would be no jokes in this episode. Likewise, he delivered one of the funniest shows in recent memory, yet he still stayed true to his word. How? Well, Richard Ayoade can literally make anything funny given the right context, and the right deadpan.
In that regard, Ayoade was perfect to host the show. He never once broke out of his droll, deadpan character, and strung the entire show along to be factual, and interesting, rather than funny. Of course this was meant in semi-jest, but Ayoade made damn sure that he looked like he was serious, going so far as reading odd facts about musical genres throughout the show, and inciting theoretical discussion whenever possible. He made the show funny through anti-humor, through subverting the expectations of the audience and giving a completely different kind of humor than what the show is known for. And in an era when the show went more broad than sophisticated in terms of humor, this was welcome.
Richard’s crowning achievement was taking an offhanded comment by guest Ed Sheeran, spinning it, and spending the entire rest of the show berating him about it. It started off as innocently as Ed saying he passes out after sex, and Richard went further, turning the whole show on his head and completely embarrassing Ed Sheeran…even after he elaborated further and further. Like the Freeman show, a lesser host wouldn’t know how to react, but Richard just used his utter confusion and multiplied it, transferring it to the entire panel, and eventually the audience.
He was also quick on his feet, and able to improvise around a stumble without breaking character, and he hosted the show so swiftly and adeptly that it felt like he’d been trained in it.
Richard Ayoade, as Buzzcocks host, was a stone wall, in that nothing fazed him, nothing got past him, and he just built on himself and got stronger as the show went on.
So, after all that, you’ve probably done the math and figured out who #1 is. If you’ve read the blog, you shouldn’t be too shocked.
#1- Frankie Boyle (Series 23 Episode 11 & Series 24 Episode 10)
To a lot of people, this would be a lot like saying Cape Feare’s the best episode of the Simpsons, or that Goldfinger’s the best James Bond movie. Like, yeah…but that’s WAY too obvious? Do something risky, do something unusual! And to be honest, I came close to putting Ayoade at #1…but I couldn’t. I couldn’t not put Frankie Boyle at 1st place.
Frankie Boyle is the single funniest guest host this era ever had. Yes, you say, but Greg Davies was really funny! How come Frankie gets the top spot and Greg doesn’t? Well…Frankie borrowed a bit of ‘unfazeable’ material from Richard Ayoade. In both of his hosting appearances, he had some moments where he could have cracked, where he could have made an easy comment, and he came back with something incredible.
Carol Vorderman: “Are you on Facebook, Frankie?”
Frankie: “I am.”
Carol: “What’s your Facebook name?”
Frankie: “….Frankie Boyle?”
[The audience takes a moment to laugh at this.]
Frankie: “…to be honest, Carol, I’d heard you were smarter than this…”
Frankie: “Yeah, Dappy, now HE’s a muppet…”
Professor Green: “That wasn’t very nice..”
Frankie, IMMEDIATELY: “I’m not a very nice man…Glad I could clear that up for you.”
Michelle Williams: “That’s not true, I think you ARE a nice man.”
Frankie, IMMEDIATELY: “Well, watch this…”
This is the kind of dialogue comedy writers DREAM OF. Frankie’s just so amazing at just knowing the exact right shit to say, not even taking a moment of thinking of it. When Andy Parsons made a joke about him on ‘Scenes We’d Like to See’, Frankie was literally walking onto the stage JUST AS ANDY WAS LEAVING. HE ALREADY HAD THE JOKE THOUGHT UP. IT TOOK, LIKE 2 SECONDS.
With all of that said about Frankie, did he deliver, on BOTH his shows? Yes, he did indeed. His first show was great, as he was able to deliver phenomenal lines, some polished proctoring, and some really nice Carol Vorderman slams. You could tell he was a fan of the show, and a fan of music, and was pretty cheery to be honest, while giving his trademark amount of Michael Jackson jokes and AIDS slams.
His second show was the one that singlehandedly convinced me that I needed to do a watchdown for this show. Just from the way that Goldie spent the entire episode with his gold-plated teeth against the desk, laughing so hard, you could tell how outstanding that episode was. Frankie was able to screw with Professor Green, Goldie AND Michelle Williams throughout the show, to the point where I’m honestly surprised Michelle still liked him by the end. As dominant as he was in Show 1, he was even stronger in his second show, giving one of the funniest episodes I’ve ever seen, and never once breaking a sweat or not knowing what to say. And this episode had shit that could even render Richard Ayoade speechless, especially the ‘dotty bitch’ that showed up in ID Parade.
The best part of all this is that Frankie Boyle was able to comply with BBC standards, was still able to not really filter himself, and had a tremendous time both times. And he did so well that the producers asked him to fill in for Phill the very next series, which led to ANOTHER funny episode.
Simply put, Frankie Boyle crafted two of the funniest episodes of Buzzcocks of all time, and did so not only brutally, but professionally. To me, he is the greatest Never Mind the Buzzcocks Guest Host of all time, and if he had ended up hosting the show full-time, I would have collapsed in joy.
So, those are my Guest Host rankings. You may not agree with them, but I had a ton of fun writing this up. Next up, I’m probably gonna rank some of my favorite recurring panelists. Hopefully those lists will take a smidge less effort.